There is nothing like being a patient to bring you face to face with the realities of working lives. Fortunately for me, my recent experience was entirely positive.
The process began with me being able to book the date and time of the appointment. What a good idea it is to enable patients to choose and book. It is not just the convenience but also the acknowledgement that you might have some other things to do and that the treatment is not the only thing going on in your life. It is a practical demonstration of Institute for Healthcare Improvement chief executive Don Berwick's words "to shift from the patient as a guest in our service to us as the guest in the patient's life".
It was a very minor thing: removing a cyst from my eyelid. Apart from the formalities at reception and a check on my vision, a clinical nurse specialist did it all. She was excellent: courteous and charming. Full information was provided before the consent form was filled in. There was no sense of being hurried. Time was taken at every stage to make sure I was comfortable and knew what was going on. Excellent follow-up information was provided with telephone numbers to contact if anything went wrong.
For me this was a remarkable demonstration of how working lives and patient experience have, at least in some respects, changed for the better. We have moved to the point where new roles have emerged and old demarcation barriers have come down.
It is great to see prescribing being extended to non-medical staff and to see the potential of so many professions, including pharmacy, being liberated in the service of patients. The days when a doctor had to do everything have long gone.
Many years ago a member of my family narrowly avoided the premature removal of plaster, which would have seriously compromised corrective surgery. It only happened because the experienced sister had the courage to ask the junior doctor to step outside while she explained what he should be doing and because he had the wisdom to accept her advice.
It is not status that matters. Our search should be for potential. Which healthcare assistants have the potential to become qualified nurses, physios and occupational therapists? Which nurses have the potential to be clinical specialists? Are we using the potential of the immense richness of our human resources or are we maintaining barriers so that people without a good standard of general education remain in the most junior jobs, even though they have the intelligence, experience and humanity to knock into a cocked hat someone without these qualities who just happened to come from an advantaged background and end up with a fistful of qualifications?
We are in an era when it is possible for trusts to put into practice the belief that all that matters is the need of the patient and the skill, experience and qualifications of the person who can best meet that need.